AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin mom Lauren Hoffer does not want her son’s disability to keep him from going to the grocery store like any other kid or shopper.
Her 5-year-old son, Ben, has Angelman syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder with mobility and cognitive challenges. This makes walking — especially for long distances — difficult for him, Hoffer said.
Hoffer said her son is getting too big to put into a cart’s basket or to carry around the store, which makes shopping difficult for her family and other families with special needs. Leaving him at home with a parent is an option, but that makes Ben’s world small, Hoffer said.
“He can’t live in a world where he doesn’t get to go anywhere,” she said.
After one H-E-B trip pushing two carts around the store, Hoffer reached out to the HEB store on Far West Boulevard and asked them to invest in a Caroline’s Cart, a shopping cart that caregivers can use to push children and adults with disabilities around stores.
“I came home from that trip a little exasperated with myself because it was the first time I really hadn’t been able to handle it,” she said. “I was like ‘OK, that’s it…all I can do is ask.'”
In response, H-E-B store management said it would order a Caroline’s Cart “to make HEB a more inclusive place for all shoppers” in an email to Hoffer. An H-E-B spokesperson said several Austin area stores have Caroline’s Carts available, and more HEB stores order carts every year.
She said the cart will allow her family to shop for groceries without worrying about someone staying home to care for Ben.
“It will allow him to be out in the community and to know people in the community and also learn how to grocery shop and all the things that you do when you’re growing up,” she said.
These carts will also help Hoffer’s family long-term as Ben grows up. Caregivers for elderly people can use Caroline’s Carts so seniors can pick their groceries.